The teacher is pulling me off her; everyone is talking loudly and fast. The teacher is saying something to me, something angry, but I don’t hear.

All I can do is look at Funeka’s eyes as he drags me away.

I’m in the Principal’s office and Mr Dlamini is there. The Principal is a woman, Mrs. Msutwana.

“I don’t know what got into her,” says Mr Dlamini, shaking his head. “It was like she turned into a wild animal.”

That’s a laugh. If I was a wild animal I’d probably be a cockroach. Something that lives in the dark and the dirt. I smirk as I think of myself as a cockroach, freaking people out.

“Is something about this funny to you, Khwezi?” the Principal asks.

“No Ma’am,” I say woodenly.

Mr Dlamini shakes his head again. “I don’t think she’s right in the head.”

I click my teeth, turn my face toward the window so that they can’t see my hurt.

“Is everything OK at home?” Mrs Msutwana asks me.

I feel tears coming on. I bite my lips and they stop. I will not let them see my cry. I will not let anyone see me cry.

“Mr Dlamini,” says the Principal, “I’ll take it from here.”

He looks worried, then relieved. He sighs as he gets up. He shakes his head again, then leaves.

I keep looking out of the window. Mrs Msutwana watches me.

“You live with your uncle, don’t you, Khwezi?”

“Yes,” I say, still looking away.

“Look at me please.”

I don’t. My eyes will reveal too much.

“Khwezi, please look at me.”

With difficulty, I turn and look into her eyes. They are concerned. I almost feel like I can trust her.


You can’t trust anyone at this school though. They’ll pretend to be your friend until they stab you in the back.

“If there’s something wrong at home, you must tell me,” she says.

Her voice is persuasive. Part of me wants to imagine she is my mother, and hug her, and say, ‘I miss you Mommy’. But I can’t think about my mother now. I’ll just break down. I just stay silent.

“I want you to know that if you need to talk about something, I’m here for you, OK?”

I want to believe her so badly. But I don’t. Not really.

“Everything is fine,” I say flatly. “Can I go now?”

“Promise me you won’t cause this kind of havoc in class again.”

“I promise.”

“And I’m sorry, but I have to punish you.”

“Why? She provoked me.”

“I can’t let you think that this kind of thing goes unpunished. You have detention for the next three Fridays. OK?”

I give her the silent treatment. She waits.

“OK?” she asks again.

“Fine,” I say with a voice like lead, then get up quickly out of the seat, and leave.


Tell us: Should Khwezi tell this sympathetic Principal about her home life? Why is she holding back?